• A study exploring whether what time you eat affects your metabolism has found that eating a large breakfast reduces hunger.
  • Although the time you eat your biggest meal was found not to affect calories burned, consuming a larger breakfast could suppress your appetite and help you lose weight.
  • The results challenge the popular misconception that ‘evening eaters’ are more likely to gain weight.

Scientists from the University of Aberdeen found that when you eat the largest quantity of calories does not affect your metabolism, but eating a big breakfast and a small dinner might help you lose weight by reducing your appetite.

The study involved 30 participants classed as obese or overweight following two 4-week diet regimes comprising around 1,700 calories a day.

For one month, the participants consumed 45% of their daily calorie intake at breakfast, 35% at lunch and 20% at dinner. For the second month, the proportion of calories consumed per meal was reversed, with 20% of the daily calorie intake at breakfast, 35% at lunch and 45% at dinner.

Professor Alexandra Johnstone, the study’s lead author from the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute, said: “Participants were provided with all their meals for eight weeks and their energy expenditure and body composition monitored for changes, using gold standard techniques at the Rowett Institute.

“The same number of calories were consumed by volunteers at different times of the day with energy expenditure measures using analysis of urine.

“This study is important because it challenges the previously held belief that eating at different times of the day leads to differential energy expenditure. The research shows that under weight loss conditions there is no optimum time to eat in order to manage weight, and that change in body weight is determined by energy balance.”

There was an emphasis on protein for breakfast, with the provided meals comprising of smoothies, yoghurts, eggs, sausages and mushrooms.

While the timing of the meal did not affect the number of calories burned, metabolic rate or weight loss, eating a large breakfast did suppress appetite or hunger levels. Over time, this reduced appetite could contribute to weight loss due to a reduced desire to consume more food.

Speaking to the BBC, Professor Johnstone said: “The studies suggest, for appetite control, the big breakfast was a winner.

“If you can start your day with a healthy big breakfast, you are more likely to maintain physical activity levels and maintain that control over appetite for the remainder of the day.”

This study was originally published in the journal, Cell Metabolism.

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